Spoilers…I think: If you’re at all interested in the intellectual minutia of Tom King’s Mister Miracle, than I highly suggest you look up a video by youtuber Matt Draper. He is obviously much smarter than I and goes into the hardcore psychological aspects of this book in a way that far surpasses anything that I could do.
Mister Miracle is a DC Comics character that I have heard about before, but had never read about. I knew the gist of him though. Created by comics’ legend Jack Kirby in 1971, I knew exactly two facts about this character; that he was the greatest escape artist in the world, and that he is married to Big Barda, former leader of the Female Furies. On top of that, I am one of probably four comic book fans that have never read anything from writer Tom King, but I’m told that he is doing great things with Batman. So, imagine my surprise when I read a twelve issue storyline from a writer that I never heard of about a superhero that I’ve never read before that equaled a juggernaut of a story that far exceeds three hundred pages, and I read it all in one sitting while my son was napping.
I don’t usually refer to my children while I am writing but I feel like the fact that I am a husband and a father really helped me understand and relate to a superhero like I never had before. This story starts out very, very bleak. In the opening pages, the reader gets a full page spread of Mister Miracle (real name, Scott Free) slumped over in his bathroom with blood pouring out of his wrists. You see, from what I can tell, Scott Free has been the Super Escape Artist for so long, and escaped so many traps and contraptions, that he has become bored with his life. Yes, he is married to beautiful woman, he is a superhero on the same level as the Justice League, and is also something of a popular television star. Yet, despite all of that, he is bored and starts to wonder if there is anything he can’t escape from, anything that can hold him down. And then one day it comes to him; Can Mister Miracle escape death?
And that’s when the depression becomes obvious.
Scott survives his suicide attempt, but he doesn’t escape from it. The fact that Scott tried to kill himself, it almost becomes a separate character all on its own. You often hear about writers attempting to break the superhero mold, but often times it either gives us more of the same, or it just relies on violence and nudity to separate itself from the pack. This story is the first time in a long time that a comic book has broken the superhero mold. You often think about superheroes being the paragon of all that is good in our world, and yet with Scott Free, we get an examination of a man that was given to the devil at birth (long story) and raised in the fiery hells of Apokolipse, forced to live a life of daily torture and isolation as the rejected “son” of Darkseid. We get to see a boy given the ironic name of “Scott Free” due to his many escape attempts from the pits and come out clean on the other side. We get to see a man get everything he’s ever wanted, freedom, love, friendships, and yet he can’t escape from a painful past that haunts him to this day. I’m no expert, but it sounds like Scott is suffering from PTSD, and I might know something about that. I am not self-diagnosing here and I have also never seen a doctor about this, but from what I have been told from others that know what they’re talking about, I check a bunch of the boxes. While I did not come from a broken home, I had more than a couple of rough experiences while I was in the Army, and a few more in the years since I’ve gotten out. I think I may know what Scott was feeling. The nights without sleep, food having no taste, seeing things that aren’t there and wondering what it would be like to die. While I am not trying to play a violin here, I wanted to (briefly) bring all of that up to tell you that when I felt that I could relate to this superhero in a way that no comic has ever let me before, you would know that I wasn’t trying to sound cute.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the single greatest aspect of this book; the married life of Mister Miracle and Big Barda.
Again, I have never read a comic book about Mister Miracle before, and I have read even less about Big Barda, Miracle’s wife. But it should be noted that their relationship is possibly the single greatest thing about this entire series. The love that is on display between these two characters actually feels like real love. It’s not like it looks in movies. It’s not all grand speeches and enormous, unrelatable romantic gestures. It’s about quiet conversations over lunch and falling asleep on the couch in front of the TV. It’s arguments and bad jokes and dealing with different work schedules. It’s a real marriage the likes of which I haven’t seen since early 90’s Spider-Man and I have to wonder why the hell comics, from what I can tell, have a serious aversion to marriage. Let alone marriage between two superheroes. But what I love about this relationship is what Scott and Barda mean to each other. They represent hope, freedom and refuge from a shared traumatic childhood. They show that a marriage requires two people, not just to be married, but to deal with being married. It takes two to reach decisions and two to make the best of a bad hand.
I won’t go into the plot twists or the epic, actual epic, storytelling here because I feel that my limited experience with these characters would simply do you a disservice dear reader. But I will say that reading this book made me realize that this was the first book in a long, long time that really got it when it was trying to make a “Super” hero relatable. Many writers talk about making a story more adult, and as I said before, many writers just add more violence and maybe even a little of T&A for good measure, but Mister Miracle by Tom King realizes that you need to take a hero to a dark place to have a dark story. That may sound obvious, but this story has the spine to take a hero places that you haven’t seen before and deal with issues and themes that even we as adults have trouble dealing with in our lives. Seriously, buy this book.
Oh and the art by Mitch Gerads is no joke.